Salespeople and business owners continue to ask me if they really need to be on social media.  The answer is, “Yes” but it is complex.  I typically ask them where their audience is and of course if at least some portion of their audience is using social media.

For salespeople and business owners just getting started in social media I recommend they start with LinkedIn.  It is all about business and it is very powerful when used correctly.  It is amazing that people are still reluctant but it is true.  Most people who are not already on social media are in the latecomers group know in the technology adoption lifecycle as laggards.  It is important for them to get in the game and look like they know what they are doing so I give them these suggestions for getting started.

1. Complete your profile: Add as much info as you can. Keep your summary short. Add a professional photo.

2. Make Connections with people you know: Start with friends, family and co-workers, then add clients and past clients. Add people you meet networking and people in your professional organizations. Don’t connect with people you don’t know until you have learned to use LinkedIn appropriately. You will get the best results using LinkedIn once you have 500 connections so start with people you know.

3. Send a personal note: Making a connection request, always send a personalized note, even if you know the person well.  Example:

Hi John, It was great to see you at the networking event last night.  I’d like to talk to you further about the technology group you mentioned.  Let’s get connected on LinkedIn so we can share our networks.  Best Regards, Alice

4. Join groups: find professional organizations that you belong to and join their groups on LinkedIn. Then search for other groups that would be interesting for you to belong to.

5. Engage in the conversation: All of the groups you join will have ongoing discussions; join them or start your own. Post your activity and see what others are up to.  Engage in conversation with people you know.

6. Add Events: if you hold workshops, webinars, or lunch and learns, you can post them and share them on LinkedIn.

Once you have done these things, LinkedIn will be a powerful way to connect with prospects or people you want to know.  It can help you get sales or get a job.  But don’t try any of that until you have the basics down – most importantly a complete profile.  A bad impression lasts a long time so make sure you learn the LinkedIn etiquette and know how to use the tool effectively before you start trying to connect with people you don’t know.